Staff cuts strain prosecutors; emergency funds sought
After two rounds of staff cuts and a rise in aggravated assaults, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg has asked for money to reduce a backlog of nonviolent felonies for which prosecutors haven't filed charges.
Seattle Times staff reporter
After two rounds of staff cuts and a rise in aggravated assaults, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said Wednesday he doesn't have enough attorneys left to keep up with high-priority property crimes.
He asked a Metropolitan King County Council committee for $225,000 to cut a growing backlog of nonviolent felonies for which prosecutors haven't filed charges.
Satterberg's money request comes three months after voters rejected a proposed sales-tax increase that would have maintained criminal-justice programs at last year's levels. Satterberg was among those pushing for the tax increase.
If his request is approved, it would come from a $1.5 million set aside in the 2011 budget for "the most pressing and emergent criminal justice and public safety needs."
Since 2008, budget cuts have eliminated the jobs of 28 criminal prosecutors, or 16 percent of them, while the number of aggravated assaults — crimes usually involving weapons — nearly doubled to 1,546 last year, Satterberg said.
Aggravated assaults are "a ton of work for the deputy prosecutors who are left in the office," he told the council's Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee.
As a result, the time it takes to file charges in cases such as burglary, auto theft, forgery and possession of stolen property has doubled since last year to six weeks and, without additional funds, will grow to three months, Satterberg said later.
"It's what I anticipated would happen if we lose 16 percent of our deputy prosecutors. There are some things we absolutely have to do to respond to constitutionally mandated deadlines — and other things necessarily go by the wayside, but they're important as well," he said.
He also asked for $200,000 to continue a program to prosecute gang-related violence and gun-related crimes, $112,000 to negotiate more plea bargains, and $100,000 to improve diversion program for first- and second-time juvenile offenders.
Committee Chairman Bob Ferguson and a spokeswoman for County Executive Dow Constantine said they intend to work together to fund Satterberg's most urgent needs.
Sheriff Sue Rahr and presiding judges of District Court and Superior Court — which also are eligible for those dollars — will brief the law and justice committee on their financial situation in the coming weeks.
A $60 million budget shortfall forced all departments to downsize this year. Except for the Sheriff's Office, where deputies refused to give up a negotiated 5 percent pay increase, workers in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and other departments saved some jobs by agreeing to a one-year cost-of-living freeze.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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